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The Way Government Works!?:

If you're one of those people who think that libertarians are just greedy, cruel-hearted, selfish people who hate the poor, and you just can't fathom how they think, you should read this article from Sunday's Washington Post (hat tip: Barone blog via Instapundit). The article details how the dairy lobby ganged up on an entrepreneur to who undercut their prices, and put him out of business.

When I read an article like this, I think, "yes, that's a typical example of how the government works." It's more or less the lens through which I, and I'm sure most libertarians, view the government; social Democrats of my acquaintance seem to have a generally much more benign perspective on government activity, focusing on the "good" that government does in providing aid to the needy and whatnot. (And, if they focus on a story like the Post story at all, they will see it primarily as about the need for campaign finance reform, not as a story about how laws are made in a democracy.)

My point is not to start a debate over which perspective is closer to the truth, but simply to suggest that whether when one thinks of government one thinks of, say, the government preventing grandma from starving by providing her with Social Security, or of the government forcing poor consumers to pay extra for milk to benefit millionaire farmers is almost certainly a good predictor of where one's political sympathies lie. And it has nothing to do with hating, or loving, the poor.

In my own case, growing up amidst the incredible corruption, legal and illegal, of New York City government and politics [one example: neighborhood teenagers from upper-middle-class families who got $12 an hour City jobs supposedly reserved as "job training" for "underprivileged teenagers in the late 1970s, when the city had just emerged from near bankruptcy, because their parents helped out the local Democratic Party] had a significant impact on my perspective on the proper role of government. Perhaps if I had been raised elsewhere, or if my family had benefited from this corruption, as so many real estate developers, attorneys (by getting assigned to be trustees by courts, etc.), and many others did, my outlook would have developed differently.

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